My dad loved his gardens and always included a few giant sunflowers among the flowers and veggies. Today, I still plant a variety of sunflowers each year in his memory. I’ll plant a mixture of colors from burgundy to bright yellow sunflowers, orange bushy tithonia (Mexican sunflowers) and little two foot high, fuzzy “Teddy Bear” sunflowers. Then there are the “volunteers”. These are the sunflowers seeds dropped by birds visiting our feeders. They can sprout up anywhere. This year, we have some growing by the side of the driveway right against the retaining wall. Several others are coming up in the middle of my small patch of zinnias. One even sprung up in the center of some potted herbs on the deck! I let them grow and cheer them on as they struggle to become full- fledged sunflowers. They obviously don’t realize that they are born of inferior seed, the seed that is relegated to bird seed mixes. Their stalks are thin and spindly compared to the ones in the garden. When they bloom, their heads will be small and pale. They won’t be much to look at yet still they grow and each day they do what all sunflowers do. They will follow the sun with a determination that is inspiring to me.
In the morning, as the rising sun send out its first rays of the day, the flowers will face the east. By noontime, the heads will be facing straight up towards the sun. At sunset these same flowers will be turned due west as they catch the last of the fading light. They show such devotion to what they acknowledge as the source of their life. Yet, the truly incredible thing is that they start this pattern as soon as the sunflower head begins to form. Even as a tightly closed bud, sunflowers follow the sun.
So it makes me think – how closely am I following the Son? Unlike the sunflower, I am aware that I am born of
inferior seed and not nearly smart enough, strong enough or good enough to follow Christ. Yet, He invites me to follow. Often we wait until we are more comfortable before we join into a ministry opportunity. We want to wait until we learn more, know more or can do more before we sign up. While I am all for the proper training of volunteers, can we ever be really “fully trained”? We need to take our cue from the sunflower and start following while we are still forming buds and not wait until petals are full bloomed.
I’ve been known to jump out of the boat a few times and often find myself learning on the job. The great thing about that, is that when I have little preconceived ideas of what a ministry should be, I am much more open to whatever God is prodding me into doing. I have found myself in some very interesting places simply because I was trying to follow the Son.
Once I found myself in a HazMat suit telling a group of kids about the beauty of God’s creation
Once I let kids break water balloons over me at the end of the school year just to show them how I trusted them.
Once I broke out the bubble solution and transformed a classroom into a whole room of bubbly fun as we spoke about how “Jesus’ love is a bubbling over” at a Valentine’s Day party.
Once I used a chemical mixture to make a pumpkin “vomit” in order to show how we are changed by our encounters with Christ (Oh, the joys of being a youth leader!)
I’ve lost count of how many times I have crawled under a puppet stage to teach kids and adults about a God who loves them more than they can ever imagine. In the process I have built friendships with the teens that I teach puppet techniques to and been blessed by those friendships.
I try to follow the Son wherever He leads just like the sunflowers in my garden. Admittedly, I don’t always get it right. I make a lot of wrong turns and I get stuck in a lot of bad decisions. But I have asked Jesus to lead and He keeps an eye on me as I follow. Just as He watches over the smallest sparrow, the lilies of the fields and the little sunflower growing my pots of herbs, He watches over me and keeps me on track.
And I follow…
When I don’t feel good enough
When I don’t get it right
When I can’t see where He is leading…
I follow the Son.